China and Tibet 2004

CHINA and TIBET

AUTHOR

LOIS OLIVE GRAY

PHOTOGRAPHY KAY ELLEN GILMOUR, MD

2004

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CSUHRINPARI&SETHE YANGTZE: RIVERS OF “E XPLORERS ”—K AY , L OIS , S UZANNE , H ETTY J UNE 24 – J ULY 15, 2004 Contents GEOGRAPHY / DEMOGRAPHY ................................................................................................. 3 CITIES VISITED ............................................................................................................................ 5 CULTURE / ATTITUDES / POLITIC ............................................................................................ 6 DAILY LIFE / ANIMALS............................................................................................................... 7 TRAFFIC & ITS CONSEQUENCES ........................................................................................... 10 RISE OF THE MIDDLE CLASS...................................................................................................11 HOTELS / RESTAURANTS / FOOD .......................................................................................... 13 ONE CHILD POLICY / MINORITIES / AGING & DEATH ...................................................... 15 HOUSING ..................................................................................................................................... 18 HONG KONG .............................................................................................................................. 27 DAILY LIFE.................................................................................................................................. 28 PUBLIC SPACES-BUILDINGS / MONUMENTS...................................................................... 31 PERFORMANCE CENTERS....................................................................................................... 32 THE WALLS OF CHINA ............................................................................................................. 35 The Great Wall of China............................................................................................................ 35 The City Wall of Xian ............................................................................................................... 37 LHASA, TIBET ............................................................................................................................ 39 CITY SQUARE .............................................................................................................................. 41 YANGTZE RIVER CRUISE / THREE GORGES DAM ............................................................. 43 GENERAL JOE STILWELL ............................................................................................................. 44 Three Gorges Dam .................................................................................................................... 44 TRACKER TRAILS ........................................................................................................................ 46 TRANSPORTATION .................................................................................................................... 48 AIRPLANES ................................................................................................................................. 48 OVERNIGHT TRAIN ..................................................................................................................... 48 OUR BUSES ................................................................................................................................ 49 VICTORIA RIVER CRUISE SHIP .................................................................................................... 51 ESCALATOR OF HONG KONG ..................................................................................................... 53 HONG KONG ............................................................................................................................... 54 LANDSCAPES ............................................................................................................................. 56 TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS .................................................................................................. 58 PNEUMONIA .............................................................................................................................. 58 ALTITUDE SICKNESS ................................................................................................................... 58 TURISTA ...................................................................................................................................... 58 CONCLUSION ............................................................................................................................. 59 KAY’S ALBUM OF THIS TRIP’S PHOTOS............................................................................... 59

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This adventure travel experience was truly a “voyage of discovery” in many and unexpected ways. Not only did we undergo an almost complete overturning of our preconceptions about China, we also learned, saw, felt, and processed many new and startling things about this enormous and important country. A very heartfelt (and not a bit sarcastic) phrase became a mantra for us--“What a surprise!” The expression sprang to our lips in response to so many events, sights, experiences, and educational opportunities that we began to grow self-conscious at its regular reiteration.

GEOGRAPHY / DEMOGRAPHY

However, overuse of the phrase did not dilute the freshness or the surprises of the experiences! The relative size of China to our own country was the most basic of our misconceptions. We believed China to be much bigger than the USA, but in truth, it is a little bit smaller. China = 9,596,760 sq. km vs. USA = 9,631,418 sq. km. Of course, the population of China is much larger: 1.7 billion people vs. 300 million! Those two facts combined to produce our first “jaw-dropping” realization—China considers its cities of 6 or fewer millions of inhabitants to be “small!” Its largest city, Chengdu, has 30 million residents and is so huge and sprawling that it has been removed from the “county” system and made into a separate administrative area of its own, as have a few other big cities like Beijing (only 16 million there)! The longest river in China, the Yangtze, 3100 miles long from Tibet to the South China Sea at Shanghai, creates a cultural division in the country, much like the intangible but nonetheless very real Mason-Dixon Line has done in our own country.

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China north of the Yangtze is more prosperous and more educated, speaks an entirely different language (Mandarin in the North and Cantonese in the South), has a different diet (based on wheat in the North and rice in the South) and cooking style, and considers itself superior to the more rural and backward South. Northern Chinese even speak with some contempt of their brothers in the South. A favorite saying we heard several times centered on the diet of the Southerners: “They eat anything with legs, except a table and they eat anything that flies, except an airplane!” Although these two halves of China cannot speak directly to each other in their own languages, they can read one another’s writings because of the form of the alphabet both parts of the country use. Since the written language is very old, both Northern & Southern Chinese can also read ancient writing with much more ease than we speakers of English can read older versions of our tongue. Even the tonalities of the two languages are different: Spoken Mandarin requires 4 tones while spoken Cantonese utilizes 9 separate tones. Most Chinese-Americans are of Cantonese backgrounds because most came from Southern China to our shores; therefore, our ideas about Chinese foods, culture, and social customs are based on our relative familiarity with them rather than with Northern Chinese habits. Obviously, that fact was the basis of most of our upended preconceptions! Another demographic distinction that the Chinese make about themselves is the division of the people into urban or rural (farmer) categories. A person’s classification into one or the other of these designations is entirely dependent on where they were born. If they are born outside a city, they are designated “farmers” even if they never raise so much as a garden. The only ways for a farmer to escape that social class are: 1) marry a city dweller, 2) obtain sufficient education to find a job in a city, or 3) get permission from the government to move into a city but even then that individual may just be labeled a “floating person” rather than acknowledged as a city person.

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CITIES VISITED

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CULTURE / ATTITUDES / POLITIC

There are other dichotomies in Chinese culture as well. Another one we became aware of when we visited Hong Kong was the feelings of superiority which the Hong Kongers evince towards mainlanders. The Hong Kongers like to point out that Mainland China is several years behind the island in development and they consider their tourists from the continent to be undereducated, crass, nouveau riche country bumpkins. Of course, this snobbism is also now exacerbated by the resentment and anxiety they feel because the mainlanders are taking their jobs. Yes, the Hong Kongers have something in common with us USA folk. We see our jobs being outsourced to India and China and they see theirs being exported to the mainland, chiefly in southern China. Their own salaries have gone down, overall unemployment is rising, and Hong Kong’s standard of living is definitely being eroded. To top it all off, the islanders have to watch hoards of mainland tourists with their new money coming to spend it lavishly and ostentatiously in their midst. Another division in the society arises from the disconnect between young Chinese and the Communist Party. Though many older citizens are still loyal to the Party, the young people who talked with us feel no interest in it. They prefer jobs with private companies or joint venture companies (foreign firms partnering with the government) because the chances for advancement are much greater and the pay is much better. As an example, we were told of an idealistic young lawyer who upon graduation went into government work. For two years, he was allowed to make tea for the older workers in his department and occasionally attend a meeting. At the end of the two years, he had made no advancement at all, his salary was unchanged, and he saw more of the same on into the future. Though he had been motivated to work for the government on behalf of his fellow citizens, he left the government and joined a private firm. He is now making much better money and is moving forward in his career. We were told that his case is not atypical. Young people openly discussed a desire for increasing democracy as well; they want more choice in government and they feel they deserve more voice too. At present, according to the young people we heard, there is more democracy at the local level in villages and even smaller cities than there is nationally. But they expressed their belief that the tendency is spreading and that in a few years, the situation in China will be much different. All of these things were spoken of openly with no apparent regard for who might be listening. Most young people felt it was acceptable to criticize government policies but not to single out and name individuals for criticism. Another example of the greater freedom young people feel today was given to us by our guide, Stephanie. She said that at the time of Tiananmen Square, the rank and file of Chinese citizens were unaware of what was really going on. No pictures were shown on TV and indeed most people had no access to a set anyway. The famous picture of the brave student standing in front the tank holding his lunch bag was unknown to them. Nor did they know the fate of the students and others who participated in the uprising. Of course, now they are familiar with the picture and also knew of stories of ordinary citizens who helped the students in interesting ways. For instance, there was a bus driver who learned what was going in the Square and deliberately used his bus to block a road into the area so that the tanks could not pass. Stephanie and others also spoke with us about the Cultural Revolution started by Chairman Mao. She told us the story of her own parents who were sent to work on the farms for re-education and rehabilitation because they were university graduates and therefore suspected of being disloyal to the government. Many people talked to us about this terrible period in Chinese history and would often add that it was an error on Chairman Mao’s part. If they didn’t actually lay blame on him,

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they would say that the whole thing got out of hand or that he lost control of the movement. As we visited more and more cities, we became ever more aware of the immensity of China’s population. Its relative youth also insinuated itself into our minds—later we learned that the median is 32! However, we were surprised that we never felt crowded until we went to Hong Kong. There the sidewalks, restaurants, museums, theaters, hotel lobbies, shopping malls, and even Kowloon Gardens are just constantly thronged with people no matter the hour. Even in the huge city of Chengdu, we never felt that claustrophobic – there was plenty of space for all those people. DAILY LIFE / ANIMALS Walking the streets of the cities and towns revealed many surprising aspects of Chinese daily life to us. We had anticipated being horrified because the Chinese were supposed to eat dogs. Instead, we discovered dogs being pampered and adored everywhere, among poorer as well as more obviously well-to-do folks. The most popular breeds were Pekingese (not surprisingly), Pomeranians, and fluffy little poodle dogs. We saw only a few larger dogs, like German Shepherds and retrievers. However, just as we were putting that stereotype out of our minds, we were taken to a Chinese Medicine Market in Beijing where everything was turned on its head again. This was a wholesale outdoor market where the people do not shop as a rule; rather the Chinese doctors and apothecaries do their buying here. At any rate, stacked by the hundreds were dog and deer penises (supposed to cure impotence) as well as mountains of dead & dried turtles, scorpions, & fish of various types. So where do all those dog penises come from if the dogs aren’t being killed and eaten? In another contradiction, we saw very few cats: a kitten being carried through the streets of Beijing by a young boy, a pet cat in the home of the lady we visited in Tibet (she also had two dogs — a Peke and a Pom), the “working cats” in the Potala Palace sleep on pillows during the day tied on short leashes and are then released to run the palace at will during the night to keep the rat population under control—an impossible task since the temple section of the Palace is filled with butter candles and food offerings all the time, plus an occasional street cat whose home was impossible to determine.

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I never had the inclination to ask our guide about dietary habits concerning cats and dogs because I did not want to know the answer. In Xian, we were taken to a “pet market” on a Sunday afternoon and it was not a disturbing place even though we went with foreboding. The city government has designated a building and the street in front of it as the city “pet market” and sure enough there were many sellers and buyers of dogs, cats, turtles, birds, guinea pigs. The sellers were not mistreating the creatures and the buyers seemed to be checking them out as potential pets rather than as a main course at supper. So who can say? Certainly, caged birds are a favorite among the urban Chinese and we later learned that “farmers” often have mynah birds as pets too. The most interesting aspect of the bird as pet situation was the habit the citified Chinese have of actually “walking” their pet birds—most of them mynahs as well but there was a sprinkling of budgies and cockatiels too. This walking exercise consists of bringing the bird outside (in its cage) and then walking along the city streets with it so that the bird could take the air (polluted as it is). Sometimes a person had enough confidence in his pet to let it ride along on his shoulder rather than in the cage, but that was rare. Occasionally, you would see the happy bird owner trimming the bird’s feathers and checking it over for mites in the great out of doors too. Dare we hope that the Wulong Panda Sanctuary outside Chengdu in the Sichuan province means that the Chinese are beginning to cherish wild animals as part of their cultural heritage? Or have they simply tuned into what a bonanza the pandas can be as a tourist attraction? Whatever, the Sanctuary is certainly a wonderful place to visit and the pandas seem to be well cared for. Considerable research goes on all the time trying to understand panda behavior to increase their chances of survival in the wild. Their breeding success is very low, even in the wild, so most of the births in the Sanctuary are the result of artificial insemination. Evidently, both males and females experience very low libido and female estrous is quite short anyway only about three days. So it’s pretty difficult for these solitary creatures to find each other in the wild in the appropriate time and then they may not be “in the mood” anyhow. Scientists at the Sanctuary have even resorted to “panda porno” films in an effort to help the pandas feel more amorous, but that has had limited success as well.

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The Sanctuary houses both red pandas (not really akin to giant pandas at all) and Giant Pandas. The red pandas are actually related to raccoons and coatimundis whereas Giant Pandas are off on an evolutionary branch all their own. All the animals appeared healthy and their natural-looking habitats were clean and provided opportunities for the animals to hide if they preferred to do so. Air-conditioning is available in their “houses” and they could resort to the indoors when the weather becomes torrid which it often does. The panda reserves in the wild are located in Sichuan province so it is not as if the pandas are not used to very hot weather—that is their natural habitat after all. We saw pandas of all ages from babies to adults and the Sanctuary tends to house them according to ages, except for mothers and babies who are kept together or pairs that are being encouraged to “go forth and multiply.”

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TRAFFIC & ITS CONSEQUENCES

On arrival in Beijing after long hours of flying from Miami to Chicago and then direct to the capital of China, everything looks gray and most passengers feel gray too. Our flight had taken us over the poles and we never experienced any night so we were able to see some astonishing places as we flew over the North Pole and the Arctic Ocean as well as Siberia and Mongolia. The Arctic Ocean was a sea of glimmering ice beneath our wings and there was no sign of human habitation on any of the tiny islands we swept over. Even Siberia was the “big lonely” with considerable snow and ice and only an occasional tiny village in view. Mountains, deserts, great swaths of greenish boglands were our carpet as we entered into Mongolia from the tundra of Siberia. A fully daytime flight of 13 hours was thus quite interesting and surprising. As we drove into Beijing from the airport, we gradually realized that all the grayness we felt and saw was not of internal origin. It was not our fatigue that kept the sky over the city gray, thick, and eye-irritating. No, it was the ever-present pollution (as we learned during our further travels) composed of smog from the internal combustion engines which have quadrupled on city streets in the last five years and, even more significant, the enormous and continuous construction projects all over the northern part of the country. No wonder our contractors cannot get cement for houses or swimming pools! The Chinese are importing over 1/3 of the world’s production of cement in addition to the output of their own factories which run night and day trying to keep up with demand. Dust from the construction sites contributes greater than 50% of the urban pollution which keeps China’s skies ever gray! Beijing city traffic is a wonder—these streets were not built to carry the automobile numbers present today. Only 5-6 years ago, these same thoroughfares, streets, lanes, avenues were choked with bicycles and rickshaws. Now the incredibly brave and foolish rickshaw men must dodge between enormous trucks, buses (called “city boats”), trolleys, and private autos (we even saw one Humvee on the roads), mostly Japanese and Korean makes, though Buick is a solid citizen here as well. Buicks are assembled in China and they are the luxury car of choice because of a long tradition in China. The traffic moves with glacial dignity and speed and Chinese drivers demonstrate both incredible courtesy and restraint (no road rage seen here). Cars proceed like a river of ice and suddenly the “glacier” throws out a chunk of ice (a car, or truck) which veers suddenly in front of another to make a left turn across two lanes of traffic or dart into a “service road” narrowly avoiding pedestrians, street side stalls, and rickshaws. Everything stops short to prevent a hideous catastrophe, and the river settles back down and proceeds again its slow and stately way. Despite the fact that the roadways are “littered” with cars, the streets themselves have not been trashed. This street neatness is true of all the cities we rode around—in buses visiting various tourist sites. Chinese urban residents do not treat their surroundings as garbage dumps. Our guide, Stephanie, told us there is very strong peer pressure in the cities not to throw waste items about. Furthermore, there are garbage receptacles conveniently placed everywhere so there is no excuse for trashy behavior.

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RISE OF THE MIDDLE CLASS

Just as the plethora of automobiles attested to the growing wealth of the burgeoning middle class, so did the routine sightings of people young and old with cell phones attached to their ears. It seems everyone in China has important business to discuss all the time. These busy people are constantly using their cell phones no matter where you see them or what the hour. Predominantly western-style clothing is everywhere as well—of course in sizes much smaller than our average ones. Chinese people are for the most part very small, though you can see that the younger children and even teens are bigger than their parents—the result of better diets or worse ones is the question?

Too much McDonald’s or lots more protein than before. The smallest person in our group (who is quite slender by our measures) could not wear any of the women’s sizes she tried on. And for further proof of this fact, we have the story of our Hong Kong guide, Bertha, who is a small woman by our standards but who has spread out enough in her middle years to require her shopping in western stores to buy their smallest sizes because she can no longer fit into even the largest of the Chinese sizes! Instead of finding crumbling, Soviet-style, brutal concrete block buildings all over China, we found plenty of modern, exciting and innovative architecture already present and going up all over. Of course, we have to admit that in smaller cities and especially ones along the Yangtze River itself, there were enough of the old style buildings to let us picture what all of China looked like just a few short years ago. It is also interesting that many of the newer buildings, particularly in Beijing and Chengdu, were the products of foreign architects rather than Chinese ones. Furthermore, the CHINA DAILY (an English language newspaper written for Chinese folks as well as foreign nationals) was constantly lamenting that Chinese homegrown architectural styles were boring, trite and ugly!

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We certainly expected Hong Kong shopping malls and upmarket stores to be luxurious and flashy, but we were bowled over by the fact the malls in Beijing, Chengdu, Xian, Wuhan, and even the relocation cities were also very fancy and filled with stores like Versace, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Hugo Boss. Prices were not cheap in any of the settings. Marble floors and walls were the rule in the malls, as well as fancy restrooms, high-end lighting, inviting displays in the huge store windows. And advertising all over the cities, billboards as well as in-window displays, was splashy, colorful and quite materialistic and western in appearance.

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HOTELS / RESTAURANTS / FOOD

Yet another surprise for tourists is the number of 5-star hotels in China now. After hearing travelers discuss the very basic accommodations they usually found, we were quite pleased to see that good hotel are in all the bigger cities we visited. Most of them actually live up to 5-star expectations as well—excellent service, plush architecture, and furnishings, large public and private rooms and very good restaurants. Even more important for us was the presence of the 5- star “happy stops” (restrooms) at which tourists are evidently welcomed—both Chinese and foreign tourists stop at these fine places. Our guide told us that the many Chinese who are traveling and sight-seeing within their own country enjoy these fancy hotels which are situated near sites foreign tourists probably don’t care that much about as well as the famous tourist draws. The only place where our hotel was less than 4-5 stars was in Tibet where, though it was called a 3-star, the little hotel was a bit dowdy. However, it was probably as nice a spot as you can find in the less prosperous provinces like Tibet. And it certainly was centrally located and was clean and comfortable (as comfortable as we would be at 12,500 ft up on the Tibetan plateau)!

Restaurants, wherever we visited, were uniformly good and some even excellent! Our problem with food (unlike what we had feared) was the volume they kept serving us. Even the men at our tables “hollered uncle” before the many courses finally stopped with the constant “end of the meal” dish—fresh watermelon. The food was different from what we generally eat in Chinese restaurants here in the USA. Our guide reminded us that we were used to Cantonese cooking (the cuisine of South China) based on rice while we were visiting in Northern China where the cooking style is based on wheat. We had wonderful fresh vegetables at all meals including breakfast (but usually breakfast buffets displayed both Chinese and Western foods and some even served up three cuisines—adding Japanese food to the mix).

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The meats and veggies were usually served in sauces but these were lighter and less salty and oily than what we associate with restaurants here at home. Whole fish were often brought to the table, usually with a wheaten coating that was crispy and tasty. Some of the veggies we could not really name but most were quite delicious. Sweet and sour dishes are much subtler than at home—not coated with a viscous, overly sweet goo. Instead, the sauce is thin, only suggestively sweet, and fruity. Also, the food served in sweet and sour dishes is not invariably thickly coated with heavy batter as it is here at home. Closely associated with restaurant food, of course, is the question of what kind of food is available to the local folks on a daily basis. We encountered both open-air markets such as are seen in many countries and store markets, some even calling themselves “super-markets.” The open-air markets were found in cities as well as in small villages. They shared the attributes of great variety in vegetables and fruits, usually arranged colorfully and artfully. Some of the fruits and veggies were completely unknown to us, but most looked familiar: eggplants, mushrooms, citrus from California, avocados, beans of many kinds, bok choy, greens, carrots, watermelon, peaches and nectarines, plums, broccoli and cauliflower, even apples and grapes. Meats were usually displayed in “styles” Americans are not used to: whole chickens hanging upside down, unfamiliar chunks of red meats not identified, fish whole including heads, pig heads. Because there were flies everywhere, we Americans did not find most of the displays very attractive. In Tibet particularly there seemed to be less hygienic conditions than we fancy are available in our own stores. Store markets were called “super” even when they were clearly what we would call mini-marts or “7-Elevens.” Of course, this meant that what they stocked were things like soft drinks, sundries, cookies and candies (not ones we recognized, however), drinking water, canned foods, batteries, wine and beer, and only a very little fresh produce. Milk and other dairy products including butter and cheese are not popular among the Chinese (indeed we saw no dairy cattle) and therefore diary items were not carried by mini-marts nor were they much in evidence even in the supermarkets. Eggs were to be found in the open-air markets as well as the store-type facilities. Real supermarkets were often extremely large (we actually saw one that was 3 stories high) and they carry everything from food and drink to books, clothing, household goods like linens, mops, brooms, school supplies, and even some appliances. The supermarkets were usually air- conditioned whereas the mini-marts almost never were. In none of these venues did food seem to be terribly expensive for the local people and even prices in the small stores were not appreciably higher than those in the supermarkets. We saw no evidence of hunger or malnutrition in the areas we visited and did note that children are apparently being fed more protein and calories than was perhaps true before because the children are growing taller and heavier than their parents. Perhaps China has finally solved its problem of cyclic famine and starvation.

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ONE CHILD POLICY / MINORITIES / AGING & DEATH

An important topic of social import that was often discussed with us is the One-Child Policy for the Han peoples of China. Chinese of Han ancestry are the dominant ethnic group comprising about 80% of the population. The One-Child Policy applies only to this group of people. The law and the significant peer pressure it produces dispose that Han couples should have only one child regardless of its sex. What this has produced, in addition to reducing Han population growth, are significant social problems. First, since boys are much more highly prized than girls, many girl babies are aborted or given up for adoption if they are actually born. No wonder when Americans seek Chinese babies to adopt, they almost always are offered girl babies and children only! (In Jax we learned there are 70 adopted Chinese children: 68 girls, 1 boy is severely handicapped, and one normal boy!) Another problem discussed freely with us is the fact that this one child is very precious to the couple and he is treated like a “little prince.” Grandparents are even more likely to spoil this only family scion. Because the children are so coddled and petted, they are becoming selfish little tyrants who do not learn the ancient Chinese values of concern for other family members, responsibility for other family members, especially older ones, and sharing what one has. Because these children grow up and are unconcerned about their parents and grandparents, the welfare burden previously borne within families is being foisted off on the state which is having to meet these needs through higher taxes and new state agencies to administer funds and provide care. Of course, money and determination can always corrupt the most stringent law and that situation is true in China as well. Grandparents and parents who are well-to-do enough to give the state approximately $20,000.00 can get permission for a couple to have another child. The money is supposedly a deposit to ensure that the 2 nd child does not become a burden on the state: his schooling is pre-paid, his health care is pre-paid, and the family has demonstrated that it can monetarily support another child. However, most Han Chinese people are unable to pay that enormous sum upfront so the policy is still producing its stated aim—controlling population growth among the Han peoples. For the dominant ethnic group, another potential problem has reared up: the policy is so effective that already the population is aging and it won’t be long before too few younger people will be trying to support through public welfare systems too many older people! A familiar sounding problem to us Americans who are already there. In addition to the dominant Han group, there are 55 minority groups in China. These people, such as the Tibetans, are not subject to the One-Child Policy. Indeed, farm families among the minorities are not restricted at all to any specific number of children. City dwellers among the minority groups are restricted to three children. This birth control policy is working to the extent that it has slowed population growth, but it is also producing problems of “unintended consequences.” Since girls are more frequently aborted or put up for foreign adoption, the social scientists fear that there will soon be an intolerable imbalance between the sexes and many males will be unable to find wives. If the minority peoples produce more children, there will be more intermarriage between the Hans and those people. Will that result in a more homogenous society or is that even a desirable goal to Chinese people? This “little prince” syndrome may also produce profound changes in societal values and practices—such as greater selfishness, less concern for elders in the family, no responsibilities for sick or handicapped family members.

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It is probably appropriate now to discuss “end of life” issues since birth and death rates are usually discussed together. Because of China’s enormous population, in the cities, new cemeteries are not permitted nor are older ones expanded. Instead, people are cremated despite the cult of ancestor worship. Most homes usually maintain a shrine with pictures of loved ones and continue their traditions of honoring their ancestors. In the country, where there is more land available, burials still do take place and the graves are decorated with flowers and wreaths. In Tibet, bodies are often committed to the Yangtze and other rivers because burial is not in the Buddhist tradition where the human body should become a part of nature again, feeding wild animals and birds.

Along the Yangtze, we saw the ancient wall burials where the coffins were placed in cracks and fissures on the rock faces. It is very difficult to imagine how the people transported these heavy wooden coffins up the mountain side and even down from the tops of the slopes. No archeologists or anthropologists have yet given the definitive answer to that mystery. So the Chinese have their mystery like the pyramids and oddly enough theirs involves burial ground too. That, of course, brings up the wonderful terra cotta soldiers outside the old national capital, Xian. This “burial” is also a great mystery. Rank on rank of soldier statues stand in good formation with very individualistic features on their faces. There are generals and horses in the huge burial grounds as well as gun carts and supply wagons—indeed a whole buried army created of terra cotta pottery hundreds of years in the past. Yet no one knows why the Great Emperor caused them to be created and buried in that fashion. The Emperor’s own burial mound lies about a mile to the east of the interred army, but it cannot be excavated because of mercury contamination within it. Burials are most interesting in China.

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HOUSING

BEIJING Housing for the living is a logical next discussion. We visited several types actually from a new farmer village to restored hutongs in Beijing to subsidized housing in Hong Kong. And we saw lots of housing that we did not enter. However, what we did visit was quite fascinating and, again, indicative of the booming economy of modern China as well as some reverence for the old there. So we’ll begin as the trip did — in the Bamboo Garden Hotel in Beijing. This wonderful compound had been the home of one of the ministers (a eunuch) in the Ming dynasty, making it about 300 years old. The grounds were lovely and large and the house was elaborate and comfortable with many rooms. Of course, it has been remodeled to add electricity, air- conditioning, running water and television. But there were sufficient reminders of the old and traditional in the building to help us feel we were being entertained by a member of the Royal Court.

Beijing’s hutongs were very near our hotel—an easy walk really. This section was originally built by the Mongols when they began to conquer and settle China. The houses are quite ancient really. In many ways, they are like one-story row houses. The ones closest to us were the most dilapidated but all the area is under renovation. These older ones are now the houses of very poor people and you can walk among them in the narrow streets and see people living in one tiny room of a hutong rather than the whole house. The narrow streets are clean but the people use them for their front porches since the part of the house an individual or family may inhabit is very small. Therefore, as you stroll in the early morning, you feel like you are standing in people’s yards or in their bathrooms because you see them brushing their teeth, washing themselves, cooking the morning meal.

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A little further away is an already rehabbed section of the hutongs. We had lunch in the home of a university professor whose wife likes to meet Westerners and therefore works with OAT in providing a home visit to its travelers. This section was quite nice really and obviously middle to upper middle class now. Therefore, it is clear that when the gentrification of the older section is complete, there will be no more housing for the poor there.

The professor’s home was comfortable, large, well-equipped with modern technology, like a plasma TV, stereo system, modern kitchen with all the expected appliances, indoor plumbing for both kitchen and bathroom, a separate dining and living room. The appointments were good quality and furniture comfortable. The professor’s wife was a charming hostess and she taught us how to make the dumplings which we were going to be eating at her table. Suzanne was an apt pupil, as expected. Since the Chinese revere their ancient past, it is a given that these old homes are much treasured and enjoyed. The professor and his wife and two teenage children reside in this fine home. FARMER VILLAGE Outside Xian we visited a new farmer village—what a misnomer that is, by the way. These farmers don’t farm though some of them do have beautiful flower gardens and some even have some vegetables growing for their own use. These men work in a huge local cement factory to which they ride on their bicycles. Most of these farmers’ wives are housewives and mothers. What is unusual about this village is that has been built across the highway from the old village where only 46 people still live. The other 278 residents of this new town, Huxian, elected to move to the new place. Their homes are mostly 2 and 3 storey dwellings for single extended families. They are concrete block but some have been faced with stone or other decorative materials and even glass blocks. The people paid some percentage of the cost of building their homes so they have a true interest in this town, HUXIAN Huxian is built around a town center where much of the village community life takes place. This center has a meeting building, outdoor ping-pong tables, outdoor exercise equipment, playground equipment for the children and a paved dance floor cum sports surface. The town owns a portable music system to facilitate community dances. All the streets radiate from this center. The evening we spent there proved that the villagers use this town center constantly. Mostly the wives and children were about because the tired men are at home watching their TV sets on weekday evenings. The ladies told us the men join them on weekends. Stephanie let us in on something even more curious—city folks often rent rooms from these farmer folk so they can get out of the

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heat of urban living and go where it is cooler and where there is outdoor entertainment. Her own family had already rented rooms from one of the host families and would be coming back here after our tour finished. Another of the central amenities for this population was a museum building where the local artists and artisans displayed their work. There are also work rooms and stations where they can actually apply their skills if they want to produce their wares in company with their neighbors. The pictures were amazingly good and not very costly. The most charming were rather simple pictures of village life, not as it is lived by these people today, but an idealized version of earlier times. We saw goose girls with their flocks, shepherd boys with their herds of goats, stacks of produce of many kinds including squashes, wheat, and apples. Our home visit in Huxian also included spending the night with a family (4 of us per host and hostess) and eating two meals prepared by the lady of the family. The couple who hosted us were cordial and gracious but spoke no English whatever and of course, we spoke no Mandarin; therefore communication was confined to smiles and nods and charades. We did learn through Stephanie that only the couple and her elderly mother live in this house now. Both their teenaged children are away at university. Our evening meal was served like a sandwich. The bread looked like a large and floppy flour tortilla. There were four plates of ingredients for the sandwiches which the lady created by filling the bread with spinach, mystery meat, onions, and an unidentifiable veggie. Then she folded the bread up to make an easily handled sandwich. Actually, the concoction was edible though I can’t say any of us enjoyed it since we could not miss her dirty fingernails and had seen how primitive her tiny kitchen appeared.

After eating, we repaired to the town center and watched the activities and actually joined in with some, like singing with the children, laughing and talking as much as possible with folks, and using some of the exercise equipment. When we returned to our house, we went to bed because it was impossible to talk with the folks and we were also very hot and anxious to try out the AC we

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had seen mounted on the wall of our bedroom. We had earlier seen the layout of the house and were impressed by the size of the rooms. The living room had a good-sized TV, two sofas and a chair of sturdy quality. On the wall were a picture of Chairman Mao and a map of China plus one purely decorative picture of flowers. Downstairs we also saw the bathroom (primitive but equipped with commode, lavatory, and shower), three bedrooms (two of which we were assigned) and the outdoor kitchen which appeared to be in a sort of alley between our house and the one which backed up to it. There was a minimal roof on the kitchen area. Our bedrooms had two double beds with clean linens.

An interesting feature of the beds were the bamboo “spreads” with flexible pieces of bamboo sewn together into a coverlet which you actually sleep atop to stay cooler since you are raised up from the bed linens. I tried it and found it quite comfortable strangely enough. The AC worked magnificently but even its roar did not drown out the sound of buzzing insects in one corner of the room. We just tried to ignore whatever huge and ugly critter that might be. The AC does not sit in a window but is mounted on the wall and has only about a three-inch hose leading from it to the outside world. Odd, but it worked! When morning finally came, we only thought we had gotten through this experience. There was more to come—breakfast. In this situation, Hetty, Suzanne, and Lois were almost envious of Kay, who could plead sickness since she really was. We really think that her upper respiratory illness had mutated into “walking pneumonia” and she felt truly awful. When we sat down at the little table in the living room for breakfast, we saw her lose all color and almost all stomach contents— she was that green. She had valiantly tried the night before, so we all endeavored to help her communicate to our sweet hostess that she was really ill! Evidently, we got the message across despite all the barriers and Kay was excused from the table. Lucky sick person.

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Breakfast was truly an ordeal and I am not sure whether the three of us were able to carry it off graciously or not—blessedly, we will never know since there was no way to read our hostess’ face or reactions. The menu for the morning consisted of hard-boiled eggs, more veggies, and dampish wheat tortillas, and a truly inedible soup to follow. With gorges rising, we all tried to get down the egg and then the breakfast “pita pocket.” We had varying degrees of success, but then out came that soup—dark, like the lichor from black beans cooking, thick, like 3 days cooked lima bean soup, vile tasting like nothing else I have ever experienced. The bowls were huge and deep and our hostess kept gesturing that we “eat up.” It was awful and we none of us got much of it down. We kept trying to convey that we were so full already, but she was pretty insistent (maybe she just wanted us to hurry up so she could clear everything away). Finally, we were rescued by the clock since we were supposed to meet Stephanie for a walk through the old village at 8 a.m. They don’t call Xian, Wuhan and Jichang “the furnace cities” for no reason. Temps in excess of 120F are not unusual. However, we were probably only enduring 100 to 105, but it was really steamy as well. Anyway, relieved and overjoyed to leave the breakfast table, Suzanne, Hetty and Lois merrily joined the walk across the highway to the old village of Huxian. And what a different sort of place it was! No wonder the majority of the folks had decided to invest some money and move to New Huxian. Firstly, there was little or no drainage in this low-lying area, so there was a lot of standing, filthy water everywhere so that we were “hop, skip, and jumping” all the way.

The houses were very old and very simple with thatched roofs and only sand for the lawn. Though we were not invited into any of these dwellings, we could see through the open doors that there was nothing in the way of comfort or convenience there, such as we had enjoyed at our host

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home in Huxian Nuevo. There were only outhouses for bathroom facilities and definitely no running water inside the houses. Making paver tiles seemed to be the occupation of the folks left there and so there were boxes of crated tiles, sand for creating the tiles, and forms for their shaping all over the area. Some folks even had haystacks in their yards and we were not sure of their purpose because we saw no livestock around. People in this village were not very friendly, indeed almost suspicious. The children playing in the area looked like 3 rd world children everywhere, tattered clothing and runny noses. The only garden we saw was dry, withered, and pitiful. When we walked back to New Huxian and began to walk about this “planned” city, the advantages were even clearer. Folks had flowers growing in their small front yards; some even had vegetables growing as well. Everyone we met was friendly and open to our attempts to communicate. The children were clean and bright and their noses were not running. This farmer village was an amazing improvement over the old town that most of the folks had left. The place looked like a Shangri-La to us after our visit across the street. Each home was indeed a modern castle in comparison. LHASA, TIBET When we got to the real “Shangri-La,” we saw yet another type of housing. The Tibetan lady who was our hostess had a very comfortable house which was rather larger than the hutongs, but not so large as the New Huxian mansions. Our home visit here did not include an overnight for which we were grateful. Instead, our hostess served us a variety of Tibetan snacks—candies, crackers, fruits, and even popcorn. Though the names sound familiar, the foods thus described were quite exotic—cooked in unusual ways with curious and unknown spices. Most were very delicious, however. However, back to the description of the house itself. The house fronted on a nice street with an unadorned wall and a gate opening into the property. As soon as we entered the compound, we could see the house pets, a Peke and a Pom, plus a cat. There was a little open seating area with the house in a horseshoe around this tiny outdoor space. The lady had three bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, a Buddhist shrine room, a separate kitchen, bathroom and some storage areas.

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The sitting room in which she served us was lined with comfortable couches and there were many decorative objects around, on tables and on the walls. The intricate and colorful Tibetan art predominated, with its impenetrable religious symbols. All the sofas were covered with brightly hued throws and the long table between the couches was full of the interesting little savories she had prepared. We toured her kitchen which was small but equipped with refrigerator, stove, and sink as well as food preparation areas. She invited us to visit her shrine room as well and we saw the ancestor pictures as well as Buddhist figures. Chamba, our local guide for our visit to Tibet, told us that most Tibetans would love to display pictures of the Dalai Lama but do not really feel free to do so. The smell of incense was strong in the little room though none was burning at the time of our visit.

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This lovely lady lives in her home with one daughter, a teenaged grandson, and an adult nephew. So she is not really crowded at all. Her other children live in Lhasa and are involved with her daily life too. This visit went much better than some since the ladies knew a tiny bit of English and, even better, we had Chamba with us for instant translations. His English skills were awesome: his speech was not heavily accented and he could even make jokes in English, On the road from the Lhasa Airport into the capital city, we saw many farmer homes from the outside. These rural people live in what appear to be individual compounds since every one has a fence or crumbling wall around it. Perhaps extended families occupy these places. They looked antique, rundown, and very poor. There were many children running around the dirt yards, dogs, and goats among them. We were never brought to one of these places to visit.

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